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We are a cross-party, member-led network, providing a single voice for our member councils

Staff Development Programme

Staff development program


Run annually since 2014, the DCN’s Staff Development Programme (SDP) is an established and well-regarded programme for rising stars in DCN member councils to support your professional development and leadership potential.

We’re pleased to say that applications are now open for the 2024 programme – please apply via the form found here.

Please note, applications must be sponsored by a Chief Executive or senior leader.

Through this programme, we will help you to:

Become more familiar with the key policy and delivery issues facing councils and wider partners and give you the strategic knowledge you need to succeed within local government.

Help you to develop the skills to deal with the changing landscape of local government and become a leader

Provide you with a Chief Executive or senior officer mentor for support, guidance and advice.

Develop your experience of working with central government and understanding of national policy and priorities.

Staff development program

We are delighted that Penna will be sponsoring the programme this year, drawing on their expertise to enhance our participants’ experience on the programme.

Penna will provide a career enhancing experience, unrivalled learning and access to extensive networks and insight that we have gained from their 50 years of finding, exciting and securing talent for local government.

The main aspects of the programme

A series of face-to-face sessions

We will host at least four themed, highly interactive professional development sessions. Topics covered are likely to include:

  • Your development within local government
  • Working in a political and policy orientated environment
  • An overview of the pressing issues currently facing councils
  • An interactive challenge involving a leadership role-play event
  • Driving your development

A project to bring about an improvement in your council

During this programme, we’ll expect you to identify, plan and implement a project to bring about real-life change in your own council. We’ll then support you to implement your project by including opportunities to reflect, discuss and share your learning and challenges with your peers through action learning sets.

Work shadowing across Whitehall

Since 2022, we have run a work shadowing  scheme with DLUHC to offer each participant the opportunity to shadow a senior civil servant for two days across the 12 months of the programme. We’re in positive discussions to continue that arrangement, and hope to be able to offer it to this year’s intake.


We will match you with a Chief Executive or senior officer from another council, who can offer valuable advice and provide guidance on career development. If you are a Chief Executive or senior officer who would like to volunteer to be a mentor, please get in touch at dcn@local.gov.uk.


To help cover the costs of running the programme, we do charge a fee to each participant’s council. The fee includes an overnight stay for the 2-day learning event but it excludes any cost of travel to the face-to-face events. We believe that this represents fantastic value for money. The current fee is £430 + VAT per participant.

We don’t want any member councils to miss out though, so if the cost is prohibitive, please get in touch.

Feedback from the programme

“The programme has certainly helped me to gain confidence in my abilities and every session was a pleasure to attend. I have many colleagues just starting out on their careers who I feel would hugely benefit from it and so I would happily recommend this programme; Actually I often found myself wishing that my team could be sat with me… !”

“My mentor is great and I’ve spent a great day shadowing him. I would encourage people to get involved with the SDP, you make so many contacts and pick up great ideas and ways of working. The DCN are a great support. Take this opportunity with both hands!”

“The experience was one I would recommend to anyone wishing to challenge themselves whilst learning new skills and being pushed slightly out of your comfort zone!”

“[The programme] has been invaluable to me and is probably the reason I have gained my new role.”

The programme provided me with experiences and knowledge to grow my confidence to progress and get involved in projects I wouldn’t normally consider I had the experience for within the organisation.”

Getting in touch

You can reach us at any time on dcn@local.gov.uk

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